As someone who is a self proclaimed ‘Selfologist’ and lover of questions, you’d thought I’d be all over the reflections and aspirations this time of year tends to focus upon.
In fact, the very opposite can be true. With the constant bombardment of big picture demands, proclamations and past behaviour analysis, I can be completely overwhelmed.
It’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed choosing how I want to feel, picking out a theme, word or colour for the year ahead, but that’s only when I’m actually able to hear my own inner voice respond.
Sometimes she just won’t answer on demand. No matter how long or hard I stare into my belly button, or breathe in and out deeply, I’m met with a stubborn silence.
A silence that can often be tinged with a sense of sadness. Upset I’ve tried to push too hard. You see the amount of effort you put in does not equate to the amount of enlightenment you may get out. This can leave me in a funk. The more frustrated I get, the more she withdraws.
That’s the best case scenario, the worst is that she lets the other voices take over, consumed with making the effort, she starts putting on a ‘stage school esque’ performance. She starts giving me what she thinks I ‘should’ want to hear.
Now, before you just write me off as the lady that hears voices and talks about herself in the annoying third person, or assume that I was asked to perform one too many times as a child ( you’d probably be right on that one ) I’ve witnessed this in my work life as well.
Often when I’m interviewing, the candidate can answer a question off the cuff with such ease and honesty, that even they seem blown away with the clarity and fluidity of their response. It feels right to them.
Other times, all I get is the standard stock answer that they think I want to hear. In fact, sometimes no amount of probing can get underneath the superficial and although it’s not wrong, it isn’t exactly right for either of us.
So if forced, I just end up with a list of goals that won’t mean anything to me if achieved ( highly unlikely if not given the right motivation behind them) and a bunch of generic observations, that although true: must make more time for … don’t have the insight or internal shift that makes the real difference to making that change.
That can be hard.
At a time when many are declaring their purpose, goals and focus you can feel even more adrift, a feeling that can disconnect you. I have at times felt at fault somehow, lost, alone and unable to see.
The one thing that brings me back to myself when I feel this kind of overwhelm is mindfulness.
This was the game changer for me. To focus wholly on the moment I am in. To be in that moment, in the steps of my life , not its past or future. Living in the right now, not in the promise of the destination.
Mindfulness allows me to use all of my senses, not to over think or struggle. To be aware of myself and fully present.
This isn’t an instructional post on the mindful practice and there is a wealth of information out there, however, if you’re feeling stressed or anxious over the holiday season you could try either of my favourite simple mindful exercises:
1. Everyday ritual.
Take something you do every day, like brushing your teeth, I use making a cup go tea, and become super aware of every action. Try not to let your mind wander, but if it does, gently acknowledge without reprimand and come back to the task. Feel the weight of the cup or brush in your hand. The smells and sounds around you. Zone out the back ground noise of your thinking. Remember you are not your thoughts.
2. Mindful eating.
When we eat something we are usually only aware of the first and last bite. The rest largely ignored as we slip into auto pilot. Pay attention to the sensory experience: the texture, taste, smell, and appearance of the food, and the sounds you make whilst eating. What’s going on around you as you sit? Feel the chair beneath you and so on. You are not on a tasting test, this isn’t an evaluation of the food, but rather witnessing you within the present. Slowing down. Becoming aware, waking up to all that is.
You see I believe Maslow when he said:
“It isn’t normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement.”
An achievement that I really want to work towards and know that I’m in it for the long haul. That it’s not something I will truly ever finish and be able to hang on a wall, a question answered on demand during a particular time on the calendar, but rather a journey of moments, savoured and revealed in its steps.